New Me: New Possibilities

by Ann Marie Luce @turnmeluce   Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

The past months have been challenging for everyone, and many have been forced to adapt to our new reality. I, too, have made some difficult decisions that impacted my family and career.  At the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, I returned to Canada from China, where I was an international school leader. I spent six months working remotely as a school principal with our school's staff, students, and parents scattered worldwide.

The hours were long, stress was high, and challenges were immense. It was manageable but difficult. It tested my leadership in new ways, and I discovered new strengths and uncovered areas for growth. Towards the end of 2020, I began to think about what it might mean for my marriage, family, and career if I did not return to my position overseas.

Family became one of the most significant factors for me in my decision making. I had been away for three years, and my sons were transitioning into new phases of their lives—both graduating college and forging ahead into adulthood. My partner and I had lived apart for three years. We spend summers and school breaks together but being home together for six months and finding a new cadence shifted our dynamics. I could see first-hand how much my husband had sacrificed and how difficult it was for him and our relationship with me on the other side of the world.

I had a decision to make. Return overseas, knowing that I would not have the ease of traveling back and forth brought on by the restrictions and uncertainty of the pandemic or stay and figure out a new path. I decided to stay in North America. It was important to me as a mother to see my sons through some of these changes, reconnect with my partner, and ensure my parents were safe and healthy. I had so many mixed feelings.

I wanted to focus on the duties of being a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend, but what about my career?Would it stall? Would I lose momentum? Would I become irrelevant?

I was, and still am, in the process of completing my Educational Doctorate, which presented an opportunity. I spoke with a mentor who explained that taking a year or two off to complete my EdD would be easy to explain on a resume. It was not like I was sitting around trying to find myself but that I furthered my knowledge and skills with my research.

I breathed a sigh of relief with that knowledge and began some intense discussions with my partner about what the next year would bring. He had ALWAYS been supportive and my biggest ally and champion, so I knew we would be able to work out a plan. We made a series of big life decisions that we hoped would help secure our long term future and retirement. We sold our house, relocated to the United States, sent our sons off into the world, and I became a full-time student. No job, no money, and complete financial dependence on my partner.

Fast forward five months, where am I now? Still wrestling and coming to terms with my new reality. I have applied for numerous jobs and faced countless rejections. The feedback is always the same:

  • You are a strong candidate, your package and resume are robust, lots of experience and interview well, but they did not see you as visionary.
  • They are interested in maintaining the status quo.
  • You did not have specific experience in .... (international education, independent schools, finance, our population, diversity, equity, and inclusion).
  • You are not extroverted enough.
  • We decided to go with the internal candidate.

All of the reflections had me churning inside. I am resilient, maintaining my self-confidence, and finding workarounds but, what is it about me that is not suitable or desired for these leadership positions?

The second part of all of this is re-inventing myself. At the moment, I feel like I have no direction and no stability. I am not working, and for me, that greatly impacts my identity and self-esteem.

I miss the sense of a school community, challenge, hustle, collaboration, and learning. I HATE not having independence and being financially reliant on my partner.

Some days are gratifying, and I embrace my newfound freedom, and others are dark, and I long to return to my former life! How then am I coping with this shift in my identity? What am I doing to re-discover myself?

  • Reconnecting with family - My parents and in-laws have needed support, so I find ways to make their lives easier. 
  • Errands, meals on wheels, phone calls, frequent check-ins, and celebrations. 
  • Working with a female leadership coach who challenges my assumptions, reframes my thinking, and pushes me to consider new possibilities. 
  • Participating in a support group of other women leaders meets monthly to unpack feelings, challenges, and possibilities. 
  • Networking using LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and individuals locally, nationally, and internationally. 
  • Writing book chapters, articles, blogs, and my dissertation. 
  • Reading articles, blogs, books, and online sources about women in leadership, cultural intelligence, diversity, equity, and inclusion. 
  • Presenting webinars about leadership, wellness, and stress management. 
  • Developing professional learning resources and presentations for conferences on leadership, cultural intelligence, and women's leadership. 
  • Creating and launching a website to share my research and consulting business. Calling, texting, and zooming with individuals I know are struggling or need a pick me up.
  • Volunteering in my community.

When I take a step back and pause to reflect on this list, I realize that I am doing a lot to re-invent myself. I continue to learn and grow, re-evaluate, stop and take inventory, and develop new and exciting possibilities for the future. Despite all, there are times that nagging insecurity plagues me on those dark days. I allow myself to sit in the discomfort for a bit, trudge on, find the learning and start to become excited for even more possibilities that lie ahead.

Connect with us

Follow us via Twitter

Newsletter

Enter your email and we'll send you more information

Search

We use cookies

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site, while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). You can decide for yourself whether you want to allow cookies or not. Please note that if you reject them, you may not be able to use all the functionalities of the site.